Notes and Jottings
J. N. Darby.
The Lord had been Warning the world in the previous part of this chapter. There was the folly of those who sought their pleasure and comfort in it; and He says: "Seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Now what distinguishes the Christian is this, that by the revelation of what is not seen, he is borne up out of this world altogether. He has, of course, to pass through it, but, as a Christian, he does not belong to it at all. "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Redemption being accomplished, this gives us a title, like the poor thief, into Paradise; but even so, we are strangers here, as in Hebrews, and we seek a country. There is nothing settled or established in this world; from the very beginning, its spirit has been that of seeking rest, whereas God, in judgment of it, has made us strangers.
It was all over with Cain, and as God said to him, and as he also said, he was to be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth. He declared he was made a vagabond, and then he went and built a city in the land of Nod, i.e., vagabond.
Man was driven out of Paradise. Cain was jealous of Abel, and God's judgment had come upon him; but he went out from the presence of the Lord and built a city and settled himself there, calling it by his son's name. The next element is "cattle," i.e., wealth; then, artificers in brass and iron; and then comes the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
Sin had made man a stranger to the Paradise of God, and so man sought to make for himself a rest.
But that is not quite all; for when the blessed Lord came into this world, man not only saw no beauty in Him, but man cast Him out and crucified Him.
And so as to the world now. Not only the world exists as the result of man being driven out of Paradise, but its present state is the consequence of his having driven God out of it, when He came in grace into it. That gave an occasion to God for the unfolding of all His ways; but the moment the Son of God was rejected, then the moral history of this world was closed.
169 Yet the Lord could say, "Now the prince of this world he shall cast out"; and He broke the power of Satan, though Satan is still the god of this world. "Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." The world has not come to an end yet, but in the rejection of Christ, the blessed Son of God, man's moral history came to an end, and he is now treated as lost; not so lost that he cannot be saved, but lost as to his moral condition, and thus he now stands before God.
God has come down to this world and He says to man, not merely, where art thou? or, you have done this and that, but, what have you done with My Son? That is what He has to say to the world now; and what can the world say to this?
Christ came in goodness. Even Pilate asked, "Why, what evil hath he done?" But man cast Him out. And I cannot take up Christianity now without saying, the world has rejected Christ. That is the position in which the world is; it has rejected Christ, and man is lost.
But God said to Christ, "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." And the Lord Jesus Christ, rejected by man, is sitting at God's right hand as Man, expecting until His enemies are made His footstool. Patient grace is working meanwhile to call sinners to a knowledge of the salvation which He has wrought.
First, He came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; and then, "Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." But that will surely be judgment for those who have rejected Him.
We stand between the first coming and the second coming of Christ; the first being when He accomplished redemption; and the second being the full fruits of it, including also the judgment of the dead.
Christianity is characterised as having this position between these two comings.
The prophets had prophesied beforehand of the sufferings of Christ. Look for a moment at 1 Peter 1:10. I only refer to it as regards the order of things. The prophets before the sufferings (and so, of course, before the glory), searched their own prophecies in order to understand them, and it was revealed to them that they ministered them to us; and they are now reported to us; they are not yet come, so that Christianity is not the accomplishment of the things themselves. The things are reported in the gospel by the Holy Ghost come down, and we are therefore to gird up the loins of our mind, waiting for the grace to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
170 This is simple and clear; they searched their own prophecies, and they found that the grace they spoke of was not for them, but for us.
But now, Christ is personally glorified at the right hand of God, and the Holy Ghost has come, and we are walking here by faith, not by sight.
When the Lord was going away, He put the disciples into this place, knowing that the effect of it would be opposition from the world.
Peter testified; "whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand."
And so the Lord says, "O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee." He had revealed the Father perfectly, but the world would not have that revelation; they rejected it. He had been faithful, and then, through accomplished redemption, He goes back to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.
We have, then, this great fact, that the Lord Jesus has gone back as Man, having accomplished the work of redemption, to sit at the right hand of God. The One upon whom all had depended has finished the work, and accordingly He has gone to sit at the right hand of God.
He has finished it, as regards His friends, and just because it is finished, He has sat down.
Of old, the priests were ever standing, and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices which could never take away sins; but this Man, when He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down, i.e., He sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God. He is now sitting upon the Father's throne, expecting until His enemies be made His footstool And, as regards His friends, i.e., all believers, it adds, "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
In consequence of this, the Holy Ghost has come down. He never came until the day of Pentecost; just as the Son of God never came until the incarnation. There was a going and a coming, as He says, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you."
171 But before the Holy Ghost could come, man must be in the glory of God; and the great fact is that man, the blessed Man, the Son of God, had been glorified in the glory of God, before ever the Holy Ghost came.
But on the day of Pentecost He did come to all them that had believed. There we have the Christian position. God had prophesied before of it, but God's word is a different thing from the accomplishment of the fact. Looked at as promises, "Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." But there is more than that, He was the Object of the promises.
There was no promise to us that Christ should die for us; it was not a promise to us that He should ascend up into heaven; Psa. 68. But He is sitting at God's right hand. What was testified is, "Thou hast ascended on high." Christ has come down here, and, dying and rising, is now set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
All was testified beforehand, and all has now been accomplished. The world rejected Christ when He came, but God has set Him there in glory. Man saw no beauty in Him - He was wounded for our transgressions - but He has glorified God in His death, and is now glorified of God at His right hand.
So that if my sins brought Christ to the cross, the consequence of it is that they are all put away. He "bare our sins in his own body on the tree." If I go to God and acknowledge that my sins brought Jesus there, under His holy judgment, then they can never bring me there. The whole thing is completely finished, not merely for lawless people, not merely for lawbreaking people as the Jews (and practically many people are now under the law), but God has stepped in, and settled the whole question of sin. Christ has come into this world and died, God manifest in flesh, so that I might be able to trust God in love, that I might say: Though I cannot trust man in the world, he is so vile, I can trust God who sent His Son; Christ has wrought such a work that He Himself who did it is at the right hand of God in righteousness. Here is the fact; it is not a promise.
There are precious promises to help us along the road more easily; but this is a fact. When I come to say, honestly as a sinner, my sins brought Christ to the cross, and that God has carried Him to His right hand, then do I know He is not sitting in my sins at the right hand of God. That is no place in which to sit in sins!
172 He glorified God on the earth. He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." The more we look at the cross of Christ, the more we shall see that everything that is in question as to good and evil has been all settled there.
In the cross, I find man in absolute wickedness, i.e., as hating God come in love; for God had come not to judge the world, but to save the world.
The prince of this world came, and led both Jews and Gentiles to get rid of Christ. Man is against Him; Satan is against Him; but Christ is perfect in it all, "that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do."
You have man here in absolute (it is hard to say perfect) wickedness, together with Satan having complete power over the world, getting rid of the Son of God; and though they hated Him without a cause, yet He goes through all in perfect obedience, shewing thus absolute perfection in Man.
If we turn to God in this scene, we find perfect love to the sinner. All that man can be in perfection is seen in the Person of Christ, and also all that God is in His holy, righteous nature against sin, and in His perfect love to sinners.
So, every way, God is perfectly glorified in the cross; and every question has been settled there.
We find there both the perfect judgment of God against sin, and the perfect love of God towards the sinner.
If God had cut off Adam and Eve, it would have been all very right, but there would have been no love in that, and if He had passed over sin, there would have been no righteousness.
In the cross, and in nowhere else, you get all moral questions perfectly settled. It is the absolute bringing out of man, and of Satan, and of God.
And there all is settled.
Now God has owned that, in that He has raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand, as Man, in the heavenly places, i.e., after that He had by Himself purged our sins.
The great truth remains, that when everything had been morally settled, man is found at the right hand of God; and in this, too, God has displayed His righteousness.
173 Then, the Holy Ghost is given upon the earth, the One who, when He is come, shall convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The Saviour came in grace; but the coming of the Holy Ghost testified to two things: first, that, having finished His work, Christ was gone for ever; and next, that He was gone so that God could set Him at His own right hand.
In John 13, speaking of the cross, He says, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him," i.e., as Son of man, as well as Son of God. As God has been perfectly glorified in Christ on the cross, so God will perfectly glorify Christ.
Then comes the work of the Holy Ghost given down here. The Spirit of God brings to a man's conscience his own individual sins; but He convinces the world "of sin, because they believe not on" Christ; "of righteousness, because I go to my Father, … of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." There is the testimony and proof of righteousness, because there is One who is a Man, who, in the very place of sin, sinless but "made sin," perfectly glorified God; and God has perfectly glorified Him.
That is the whole thing.
At His first coming, He died, was raised again, and was glorified in virtue of what He had done. All was finished first of all, and then the Holy Ghost came down.
Christ, who bore my sins, is now as Man, at the right hand of God in glory, and down here, the Holy Ghost is the witness that He is there.
That is our place, and, through the Holy Ghost we have received, comes the knowledge of that perfect love of God in which He did not spare His own Son.
What this accomplishes, then, is this: it puts me in the place where Christ is, and therefore, even from John the Baptist's father, we learn it was "to give knowledge of salvation unto his people." It is by the Holy Ghost that this knowledge comes; and I know that Christ is at the right hand of God, and also that He it is who bore my sins; if the work had not been complete, finished, accepted, He could not have been there, but it was God who raised Him from the dead.
174 And, the Holy Ghost given, that is where it puts those who believe. It is given to believers, i.e., it is only the portion of those who do believe.
It is the presence of the Holy Ghost which gives me the consciousness of the place I am brought into.
Here I get infinite, perfect love; for God gave His Son to be a man, and He died for me that I might be in glory; and He told me, when risen, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God."
'We are all the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ.' That is the force of those words in John, "To them gave he power to become the sons [or the children] of God." Then again, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." It is my place through Christ's work, and the Holy Ghost has given me the consciousness of it, for God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into my heart. I cannot call a man 'Father' if I do not know whether I am his child or not.
Then I learn another thing by the Holy Ghost dwelling in me, and that is, I know that I am in Christ; that, of course, is perfect acceptance. "At that day" - i.e., when the Comforter is come, for they could not know it until then - "ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you," John 14.
People say, you cannot know; but the Lord says, "Ye shall know." Who am I to believe? "Ye in me, and I in you." Well, then, I know I am in Christ, and that is perfect acceptance. You must condemn Christ in glory, if you condemn the believer, for He is in Christ. The Spirit is given to us that we may know Christ is in the Father, "and ye in me, and I in you."
"But if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin: but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."
I get perfect acceptance, and, with it, the character of responsibility; we are the epistle of Christ.
It does not say, ye are to be, but ye are the epistle of Christ; and the world ought to read Christ in you, as they might read the ten commandments on the two tables of stone.
Mark, it is not responsibility as to our acceptance; we are in Christ; but if that is true, the other side is also true. "Walk worthy," therefore, "of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory."
And again, in Colossians, where he speaks in the most definite way as to our acceptance, "giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light," he prays that they "might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." He takes the Lord there as the One in whom it all is.
175 There is another character of responsibility in Ephesians: "Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called."
Now God, the Lord, and the Spirit are thus to be the measure of what suits us in this world.
Another thing: "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God." There is no need of taking us on the side of conscience: "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." There I find what constitutes the Christian; the foundation is in Christ; the body of the Christian "is the temple of the Holy Ghost, … which ye have of God"; and so, "after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession." Having been washed from my sins by the blood of Christ, the Holy Ghost makes my body His temple. That is the Christian position consequent upon redemption; it is the Christian place, and thus I have to walk as Christ walked.
Forty days after His resurrection, the Lord ascended, and then He sent the Holy Ghost down here to dwell in those who believe, "whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." We know that He does dwell in us because we cry, "Abba, Father."
We look to Christ, and we know we are in Him; but the presence of the Holy Ghost is what characterises the Christian, not, of course, in his inconsistencies, but as a Christian.
If your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, and you are bought with a price, how, then, can you go and sin?
The believer is left here in this world as the epistle of Christ, and the life of Jesus is to be manifested in him. This is his responsibility.
He knows his place; he cries, "Abba, Father"; the love of God is shed abroad in his heart; and he knows his relationship with God. He is in Christ, who is sitting at the right hand of God, while the Holy Ghost dwells in Him as His temple.
But if children, we are also heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
176 Christ being in me, my business now is to shew out Christ down here, and it is my privilege to suffer with Him. Having the Spirit of Christ in me, I cannot pass through a world of degradation, and sin, and misery without feeling in some real measure what is the scene through which I am passing, and what is its opposition as well as its character. Thus, having received the Holy Ghost, the Christian passes through the world as not being of it, and as having his conversation (i.e., living associations) in heaven.
Christ "gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world," and so I am called to pass through this world; supposing Christ had been crucified last night, well the question is, am I going on with the world that crucified Him, or am I going on with Him?
Again; I must have the Holy Ghost to know that I am accepted with joy. I cannot look up and say, "Even so, come," unless I know that my redemption is settled; and then I find that Christ is all, and in all; He is everything to us as Object, and He is in all as the power of life and joy.
Having washed me from my sins in His own blood, He has become everything to my soul.
I cannot find a thing in Christ the value of which has not been spent upon me.
Let me remark one thing here, and that is, that we know whom we love if we do not love Him enough. If anyone says, "I love my mother, and I think I love her enough," I say, "You wretch, you do not love her at all." But if a child says, "Oh, I do not half love my mother, for all her care, and painstaking, and labour for me," I say, that child does love its mother.
So it is with the Lord and us; and we long therefore to see Him. This characterises the Christian position; the Holy Ghost has come down from heaven, and we know that we are sons; He dwells with us consequent upon accomplished redemption; Christ has thus become precious to us, and the second thing, therefore, that characterises the Christian is, that he is waiting for Christ; I say this advisedly.
Look at the Christian in the Christian place; not merely he has knowledge that characterises him; but he is waiting for Christ to return. The Thessalonians were converted to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven. Nothing can be simpler or plainer. All the various thoughts and feelings of Christians are connected with His coming again. Take the end of each chapter in 1 Thessalonians.
177 The first chapter connects His return with conversion;
The second, with Paul's ministry;
The third, with holiness which will be manifested at His coming;
The fourth, with the death of the Christian.
The Lord shall come, and the dead shall be raised first, and we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them; and then the apostle adds, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words"; but go and tell that to many a Christian now, and he will think you out of your mind!
I cannot go into all these points; but I just take one, "To wait for his Son from heaven." Not merely shall I be happy in heaven, but the Lord says, "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." It is striking how it changes a person's feelings, whether it is, as people talk, that I am going to heaven, or that Christ is coming for me. Going to heaven is never spoken of in Scripture. The nearest approach to it is in the case of the dying thief: "With me in paradise." Going to be with Christ is what you do find. "Absent from the body, … present with the Lord" is blessedly true for us; but that is not quite the same thought. Not that the going to heaven is not true, but where there is only this before the soul, it shuts out the thought of Christ's coming for us.
If I die, I go to be with Him; but if I do not die, then He comes and takes me to be with Him.
And therefore, the calling of the church, the hope, the object, the thing before us - and this is what a man lives by - is the Lord's return, for that which characterises a man is what he is going after.
What was the calling of the ten virgins? To go out and meet the Bridegroom. But what about the dear good men who died a hundred years ago? They fell asleep like the virgins. And what awoke the virgins? At midnight the cry came, and they all arose and trimmed their lamps; that cry woke them all up.
And herein is the test of everyone's state: Supposing the Lord should come to-night, am I ready to meet Him? I do not know when He will come; but it says, "in such an hour as ye think not."
178 Are our hearts, our thoughts, and our affections in good order? Are our lights burning? Are we confessing Him before men? Are we like men that wait for their Lord? For to such He comes and knocks, and opens to them immediately. That is the character we are to have.
Talking about prophecy is all very easy and interesting in its place, but when a soul has got salvation, then there are two subjects in Scripture; the government of this world, and the sovereignty of grace which takes poor sinners and sets them in Christ. Prophecy refers to the government of this world, and the Jews are the centre of that; but as for the Christian, I find that he is predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. When will that be? If I die first, I shall go to be with Christ, and that is blessed; but it is not what Scripture calls conformity to His image. When will that take place?
"We know" - a word that Scripture is fond of, for the Holy Ghost is come - "we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." That is when I shall be conformed to His image; and so I am going to be really like Him!
Meanwhile, we are to be like Him in spirit, and in view of that we must realise that "our conversation is in heaven."
We have, then, this blessed truth, that Christ is coming again to take us up to be with Himself, that where He is, there we may be also.
Again, we find that when the Lord was caught up, the disciples were looking up into heaven, and they were told that "this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
Time will not allow me to multiply passages; but I see the calling of the Christian is to be waiting for Christ to come: "Ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord." And I only ask you, if you were waiting for Christ, would you care to heap up money to meet Christ with?
I add a word or two about the details of it; the Lord here speaks in a double way of His return to shew how fully He would develop it.
Firstly, those are blessed who wait for Christ to come. We belong already to heaven and to what is eternal, although we do not know when Christ will come and take us there. Are our hearts taken out of this world, as out of a place from which He has redeemed us, so that we are watching for Him to come? The word of His patience is so called because He is expecting; and, if He is, of course we are. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; though of this, the world is willingly ignorant.
179 Secondly, those are blessed who are found watching. What characterises the Blessed One, does also characterise those who are waiting for Him; they are watching to open for Him instantly He returns.
Then follows the statement of the blessedness of those who are so watching.
When the Lord cometh, "Verily, I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." He spreads the table for them in heaven, and then He sets them down at it. He spreads it with the best things of heaven; and not only so, but He comes Himself and ministers to them. But until I do come, He says, you must have your loins girded, and your lights burning; presently I shall have it all My own way, and then I will have you to sit down to meat, and I will serve you Myself! What a thought that gives us of the love of Christ! Of course, it is only a figure, to shew us He will never cease to minister the fullest blessedness to His own.
The Father has given all things into His hands; and so He takes a towel, girds Himself, and comes, and washes His disciples' feet; just as if He said to them, I want to have you with Me; and while you are down here on the way, you must be clean enough for the place where I am going. So, again, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." That is for now.
When their hearts are no longer watching for Christ because they are with Him, He will make them sit down in blessedness, and He Himself will minister to them.
Here is, indeed, the reward of labour; and a wonderful place it is that we shall have in the kingdom as the "heirs of God, and the joint-heirs with Christ." When He takes the power and reigns, we shall reign with Him. But as to our intrinsic blessedness, the Lord girds Himself and makes us to sit down to meat, and then comes Himself to serve us!
When the Lord is speaking of watching and waiting for Him, He appeals to our affections, to encourage us to wait; and when He comes, He will make us enjoy the blessedness of heaven.
He is not going to rule alone over the works of His hands; we are joint-heirs with Him. He is the firstborn among many brethren.
180 Then comes a word of warning upon which I must not enlarge. "But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming," this is pretty much the position of the professing church; not that men say, He will not come, but they do not look for Him as a present thing. And so they "begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken"; i.e., they go on ruling and governing the world, and enjoying it, too. Then "the lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers." It is one in the place of a servant, who says, "My Lord delayeth," and then his Lord comes when he does not expect Him.
It is the judgment of the professing church.
You thus get the broad fact, that where the Lord's coming is deliberately put off in the heart, such an one will have his portion appointed with the unbelievers.
In watching for Christ, the heart's affections are drawn out to Him; that is the great thing; and then, He will set us down, and come forth to serve us.
Meanwhile, there is service for us here; but still His heart's delight is to serve us, and never will Christ be satisfied until He has us in the same glory with Himself.
He is now sitting on His Father's throne, waiting, but soon He will come and receive all true believers unto Himself, that where He is, there they may be also.
At first, Christians were converted to wait for God's Son from heaven; then they went to sleep and lost the expectation; that which woke them up was the cry of the Bridegroom.
And now comes the question for us: Are we waiting, and are we watching for Christ?
I do not believe this question has any relation to time. The government of the world, interesting enough in its place, has nothing to do with it.
There is no event between me and heaven. Plenty of events there are, but they belong to this world, and we do not. And the practical question for us is as to how far are our hearts up to this?
181 The world has rejected Christ; but He will return, and we shall then come with Him; but the proper portion of the Christian is for Christ to take him to be with Himself.
We who are believers, through grace, we do not half believe in the interest Christ personally takes in each one of us.
We have to go through the world, but can we say that we are watching for Christ?
Do our hearts answer to the love that Christ has to us now?
Are we answering to that love by waiting and watching for Him, because He is going to have us in the glory with Himself?
May the Lord give us to be as men that wait for their Lord: "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching!"